Randy D. Colón identifies as a disabled scholar and advocate. He is a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Disability Studies program and a Research Assistant at ADA PARC. His research focuses primarily on disability, housing, and policy. Currently he is working on a tool that communities can use to assess whether and to what extent people with disabilities are attaining affordable, accessible, and integrated housing. Additionally, he is working on expanding the tools and frameworks available to study disability policy in the United States. Randy hopes to increase his involvement in Chicago’s disability community.
Timotheus “T.J.” Gordon Jr. is an African-American male autistic writer and researcher-activist in Chicago, IL. As researcher at UIC’s Institute on Disability and Human Development, he creates trainings, webinars, guides, and campaigns on inclusion in communities of color, COVID-19 and the intersections of race and disability, autism in communities of color, and inclusion of people with disabilities in the U.S. Census.
Gordon is one of the co-founders of Chicagoland Disabled People of Color Coalition, also known as Chicagoland DPOCC. Supported by the Institute on Disability and Human Development, Chicagoland DPOCC promotes disability acceptance and self-advocacy in communities of color throughout the Chicagoland area.
As a member of Advance Your Leadership Power (AYLP), a racial/disability justice group within Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, Gordon supports and helps lead campaigns on combating police violence and mental health within the Chicagoland disability community.
Gordon is the creator of the Black Autist, a blog and social media outlet that promotes autism and disability acceptance in the African Diaspora. He uses writing and social media to discuss topics on disability in media, disability pride in marginalized communities, and caregiver violence against people with disabilities.
Kenneth Jennings, is a founder and CEO of the Gridiron Alliance Foundation, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization in Illinois. He was injured in a high school football game while playing for Simeon in Chicago in 1988. As a result, the injury rendered him as a quadriplegic and paralyzed from the neck down. Despite the impact that a football game had on his life, he lives by the motto “I Am Blessed To Be Able”.
Kenneth Jennings is a very active citizen to say the least. He has successfully help worked to get the Rocky Clark Law passed in the state of Illinois. His tenacity will not allow him to stop with the victory in Illinois, he wants mandatory catastrophic injury insurance for all high school athletes across our great country. He won the 2015 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award, he Coach high school football, a Peer Mentor at the Lifecenter at The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a Motivational Speaker, he’s is a Co-host of a sports talk show titled Coach’s Corner, and host his own show A Man’s View. Kenneth is soon to be an Author of his book titled Kenneth Jennings How 8 Seconds Change My Life, and also working on his second book The Life Of A Old (Quad) Quadriplegic.
Kenneth has been coaching high school football for the past 20 years, he has chosen to Semi-retire to pursue other interests. He still has an undying love for the game of football and is dedicated to the safety of our young athletes. He is a Motivational Speaker who speak to patients, students, business men and women, and people in the medical field. As a Peer Mentor at Lifecenter at The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, he mentors those who have been catastrophically injured, and other disabilities, as well as support with transition for their families. In the past, he sat on the local school council board at Gwendolyn Brooks High School, The Board of Directors for Increase The Peace Foundation, Daryl Stingley Youth Foundation, and No Dope Express Foundation.
Karen represents the ACLU and its clients in litigation and policy work addressing police accountability and national security, as well as the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment and discrimination claims. Karen is enforcing the ACLU’s agreement with the City of Chicago and Chicago Police Department regarding the police practice of stop and frisk. Prior to joining the ACLU, Karen worked at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton as an associate. She then served as a law clerk for the Honorable David G. Trager of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and then practiced at Meites, Mulder, Mollica and Glink, representing plaintiffs in employment discrimination and ERISA litigation. She graduated from Columbia Law School in 2004.
Ben Salentine serves as Associate Director of Managed Care at UI Health. Professional efforts focus primarily on contracting, credentialing, business development and operations efforts for the following Colleges: Applied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy. Ben is also a second-year PhD candidate in the Disability Studies program at UIC.
Phil is an empathetic individual who can connect with people on a personal level to better understand their needs, concerns, goals, and aspirations. Phil can take that information and work with others to build a solution to any problem and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.
John M. Tuhey is a principal at The Tuhey Law Firm where he uses his twenty years of experience advising board of directors and management teams of numerous small, mid and large-cap public companies. John also frequently counsels high net-worth and C-level individuals on investments, employment and other related matters. He regularly counsel’s clients in areas of complex commercial transactions, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, litigation, bankruptcy, leasing, securities law, antitrust, compliance, employment, board matters and corporate structure. John is also a passionate advocate for corporate diversity for people with disabilities. John was one of the first law firms in the United States to become a certified as disable-owned and is also a founder of the National Association of Disabled Owned Law Firms. John is a past fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and ADA 25 Advancing Leadership.
Hugo Trevino is a first-generation Mexican American. Hugo graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana ‘14 and Loyola University Chicago, M.Ed. ‘18. During his undergraduate/graduate career, he has studied abroad 5 times to Costa Rica, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Italy. Hugo’s history involves advocating for Latinxs, LGBQTIA, and people with disabilities rights on education, healthcare, and self-advocacy. Hugo’s passion led him to his current position helping students access higher education at UIC.
Suhail Tariq is passionate about helping people with visible and invisible disabilities from all walks of life. Advocacy is very important to him as too many times he has seen people without anyone to speak up for them. Suhail objective is to make sure that people with disabilities have equality in the workplace. Suhail is physically disabled and has Juvenile ALS/Lou Gehrig’s along with Spastic Paraplegia.
Gene Skonicki is a graduate of Georgetown Law where he co-founded a group for law students with disabilities. He has clerked for three federal judges and currently serves as a permanent law clerk to a federal judge in Chicago. Before law school, Gene was the CTO of a successful technology start-up.
Edison Lopez Jr. currently lives in Chicago and works as a specialist at Apple Store. With Latino parents and three deaf siblings, his background is rich with cultural diversity. Tapping into this experience lends to successful community collaborations resulting in several volunteer opportunities and leadership roles. In 2015, Edison achieved a Deaf Interpreter license in the state of Illinois. He is the current owner of Zepol Interpreting Services, LLC.
Adero Knott is the Founder of AK Prosthetics, an AdaptiveTech startup that makes customized prosthetics and adaptive wear accessible and inclusive. Adero is also an inventor and uses her experiences traveling the world to problem solve and create accessible tools that make life easier for people with disabilities.
Laura Isaacs has 20+ years of experience as an Executive Assistant and is an Executive Assistant in the Professional Standards Group at Grant Thornton LLP. In addition to her role as the National Coordinator for the Diverse Abilities & Allies BRG, Laura is also a lived experience volunteer with NAMI Chicago.
Chris Huff is a 29-year-old African American male from Chicago’s Southside. He grew up in Auburn-Gresham where he developed a passion for social change and civic engagement. He went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts in Political Communication and Economic Development from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Ga. Then, he received his Master of Arts in Social Administration from the University of Chicago – School of Social Service Administration. He has 5+ years of professional experience that includes working with organizations such as Mikva Challenge, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Nextdoor, University of Chicago, Vera Institute of Justice, and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
Whitney Hill’s vision is supported by both her passion for advocacy and personal background of being a part of the disability community. Her training as a Universal Designer has fostered her devotion to the community. Her dedicated work at the Blind Service Association, the Institute For Human-Centered Design/New England ADA Center, has honed her skills. Whitney is currently serving as an elected member on the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) ADA Advisory Committee, is Chair for the CTA Wayfinding Subcommittee, and is the Founder & Director of SPORK!.
LaShon Gurrola is a Transitional Care Nurse with Social Work & Community Health at Rush University Medical Center. She has been a Registered Nurse for 23 years. She attended College of DuPage & Purdue University. She has developed a strong clinical background, including experience with surgical nursing on Ortho/Neuro /Spine units, Home Health Nursing, and Transitional Care Nursing. Currently, she facilitates the Lupus support group and serves on the Associate Board of Lupus Society of Illinois.
As a deaf actor of color, Richard Costes leverages his trailblazing experiences in Chicago theatre through advocacy as a consultant to local theatres and non-profit arts organizations. His passion for increasing accessibility and representation is a valuable resource for many organizations, including the association he works for, ACG.
Keidra Chaney is a writer and communications professional focused on reproductive justice, disability justice, accessibility, and equity/inclusion. Her two-decade career includes experience in independent magazine publishing, non-profit digital strategy, and social media training. She is a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP).
Dr. Carrie Sandahl is head of the Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities, which is devoted to research on and the creation of disability art. This program also serves as the administrative home for Chicago’s Bodies of Work, an organization that supports the development of disability arts and culture.
Sandahl is active nationally as a public speaker. She is frequently invited to present her research and creative work on disability art and culture at universities across the United States, including University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Santa Barbara, Stanford University, Bucknell University, University of Florida, Smith College, and Davidson College among others. She has keynoted conferences such as the Articulations Conference at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the Portland Disability Art and Culture Festival in Oregon. Sandahl also regularly presents her research at the Society for Disability Studies and the Association for Theater in Higher Education, both professional organizations in which she has been an active member for more than fifteen years.
A theorist, methodologist, and empirical researcher, Dr. Kate Caldwell received her Doctorate in Disability Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Having also received a Masters’ degree from the University of Chicago in interdisciplinary social sciences, she brings this expertise to approaching complex issues where various fields intersect and facilitating dialogue across disciplines.
Corryn Antonizio is the Sustainability and Social Responsibility Champion at RTC Industries, a leading global design and manufacturing firm that specializes in creating retail experiences. RTC is headquartered in Rolling Meadows and has a presence in 13 countries with over 900 employees. As Sustainability and Social Responsibility Champion, she leads RTC’s efforts in reducing their impact on the global environment as well as supporting the overall diversity and inclusion program.
Brenda Pino has over 45 years of banking experience. As Vice President of Physical Channels for the BMO Financial Group, Brenda’s responsibilities include assuring optimal customer and employee experiences when utilizing any of the Bank’s Physical Channels, which includes a network of over 4,000 ATMs in North America. Brenda is the co-chair of the BMO Without Barriers disability ERG.
Tekki Lomnicki is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Tellin’ Tales Theatre, dedicated to shattering the barriers between the disabled and non-disabled worlds through personal story. Tekki performs her critically acclaimed solo work for schools, conferences and theater audiences, and works as a Marketing Copywriter for True Value Hardware.
Christophe Quancard is a manager with Deloitte’s tax practice. Christophe is part of the Global Employer Services group, assisting clients with their global mobility policies and practices for employees on international assignments. Christophe has over 15 years of experience in Global Mobility consulting and International Human Resources.
Christea Parent is a creator, producer, and nonprofit professional with a passion for disability justice and neurodiversity. They currently serve as the Chicago Studio Coordinator for Art of Life, and are the Executive Producer and Artistic Director for BAD TASTE Productions. As a performer and writer, their creative work is focused on queerness and social expectations; as a nonprofit professional, they excel at facilitation and administration, as well as experience in all aspects of nonprofit management, including development, board service, programming, and HR. Christea approaches all their work with a justice-oriented mindset and is heavily invested in equity for the disability community, particularly those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Anne Nash is a Google for Education Senior Program Manager who works to create tools and programs that empower all learners to reach their highest potential. She has been with Google since 2012. Anne believes strongly in enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion; and is particularly passionate about accessibility and improving opportunities for everyone. Anne holds a degree in psychology and international studies from Northwestern University.
Shannon Maher is currently part of the Exelon Talent Acquisition Team as a Recruiting Programs Specialist. As a rising Human Resources professional she creates and implements recruiting programs strategies that maximize best practices to attract and hire top talent.
Jason Lehmann aims to be an ambassador between people on the Autism spectrum and Neurotypical. Currently working as quality assurance analyst at Aspiritech, Jason is pursuing a career in technology and is interested in refining development processes.
Abdul Hakim Khan grew up in Pakistan and relocated to Pittsburgh to study Engineering. After graduating he worked for John Deere in Iowa and then joined Honeywell in the Chicago area. He has worked in different roles since then and is currently a Manager in the Honeywell Energy Services Group.
Robert Green has worked for 3 years at the University of Illinois as a Peer Health Navigator. The program helps people with disabilities effectively advocate for themselves in order to achieve quality healthcare outcomes. Prior to this, he was the drummer for Chicago Lights for more than 10 years, writing, recording and touring with the band. He is a graduate from Loyola University in Chemistry, and the University of Chicago in Biochemistry/medicine.
Nakia J. Green is the founder of Culture Solutions and Culture Solutions In Action, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations designed to decrease unemployment and underemployment amongst minority and disabled college graduates. She also founded Nakia J Consulting, a consulting firm with specialized capabilities in Leadership Development, Organizational Development, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Nakia hopes to further the conversation on invisible disabilities in the workplace and its impact on minorities.
Lori Goddard has over 20 years of experience developing sound marketing strategies and guiding diverse, integrated teams through this fast-paced, ever-changing environment. She is a strategically-minded marketing leader with vision and passion for developing innovative solutions that make a difference to consumers and businesses.
Attorney Anthony (“Tony”) M. Abou Ezzi is the Founder of Ezzi Law, a premier law firm in the heart of downtown Chicago that provides legal services in the area of Estate Planning (Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Special Needs Trusts). He represents families in Probate court in cases of Adult Guardianship, Disability Law, and when a loved one passes. Tony founded Ezzi Law in 2014 after being selected by the Chicago Bar Association’s Justice Entrepreneurs Project.
Courtney Sass is a Student Aide at the British International School of Chicago and the creator of the Museum Accessibility Toolkit, a website that features basic and inexpensive accommodations cultural institutions can provide for people with disabilities. Courtney earned a M.A. in Museum and Exhibition Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a B.A. in Art History from Loyola University Chicago.
Andrew Webb is a former Equal Justice Works ADA 25 Fellow, sponsored by McDermott Will and Emery. Since concluding his fellowship, Andrew has continued as a Staff Attorney at Equip For Equality, where he focuses primarily on providing education and representation to improve access to health care and related services for Illinois residents with disabilities. Andrew earned a J.D. from The University of Chicago and a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.
Bill Sitter currently works for Chase as a Data Keyer. Bill serves in a number of volunteer roles including on the board of Inspiration Corporation.
Joyce Otuwa is an Attorney at the State of Illinois Attorney General’s Office Civil Rights Bureau. Joyce believes in public service, mentorship, and the deconstruction of exclusive ideology through education, activism, and legal advocacy. Joyce earned a J.D. and B.A. from the University of Illinois.
Christina McGleam serves as the Assistant to the Commissioner at the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Christina’s responsibilities include the daily operations of the Commissioner’s Office and representing MOPD on two transit committees. Christina has a B.A. from John Carroll University and a Masters in Human Resource Management from Roosevelt University.
Evelyn Keolian is a Librarian in the Chicago Public Library (CPL) system. Evelyn also serves as the founder and chair of the Diversability Advocacy Committee at CPL. Evelyn is an adjunct instructor in American Sign Language at Oakton Community College. She serves on the Board of Directors of Changing Worlds. Evelyn received a M.L.I.S. from the University of North Texas/California State University, Northridge in 2012.
Emily Harris is Principal of Harris Strategies, LLC, and serves as a consultant to the Presidents’ Council for Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy and other philanthropies and non-profit organizations, providing strategy, program design and disability inclusion services. She was the founding Executive Director of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, the nation’s first disability civic leadership program. As a Senior Director at the Chicago Community Trust she led the Disabilities Fund and ADA 25 Chicago. As Vice President of Metropolis Strategies, she led programs focused on regional economic growth, open space conservation, early childhood education, and served as Executive Director of the Burnham Plan Centennial.
Emily serves on the Forest Preserves of Cook County Conservation and Policy Council, the Leadership Greater Chicago Fellows Association Board, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Economic Development Committee, the LISC Chicago Advisory Board, and is President-elect of Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston (JRC). She has a B.A. from Oberlin College and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. Emily’s experience is informed by her hearing loss, and she is a proud member of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership.
Zully JF Alvarado is an educator, trainer, public speaker, entrepreneur and international leader and advocate on the rights of children, women, and persons with disabilities. Zully currently lives in Gary, Indiana and raises awareness on the importance of accessibility in infrastructure, transportation and outdoor recreation. Zully earned an M.Ed. from the Erikson Institute.
Maureen Reagan founded and operated MRA Architects, Ltd. for over 25 years, designing creative environments, usable by all people, including people with disabilities. Maureen recently transitioned from MRA to pursue other interests, along with the continuation of universal design and accessibility consulting. She served on the committee, which produced an extensive update to the accessibility code of the Chicago Building Code. Maureen earned a Masters in Architecture from the University of Illinois, a B.S. with Distinction in Environmental Design from Purdue University, and was awarded a scholarship to study architecture at L’Ecole d’architecture, Universite de Paris III, Versailles, France.
As Director of the Division of Rehabilitation Services, Rahnee Patrick directs Illinois’ state agency to assist Illinoisans with disabilities to reach personal goals of employment and education. Rahnee conceived the ADAPT Youth Summit, and was the recipient of the 2008 Paul Hearne Award of the American Association of People with Disabilities. Rahnee graduated from Indiana University and co-founded Students Together Able and Respected, comprised of disabled students.
As a Senior Accessibility Specialist, Benro Ogunyipe directs and administers the bureau’s program and training activities to ensure department compliance with Titles I & II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the department’s legal obligations under the Illinois Human Rights Act. Benro has 15 plus years of professional experience in public service administration, non-profit leadership management and multiple advocacy and policy board positions driven to promote full inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities as well as personal and professional advocacy for Deaf and hard of hearing people in all settings of the society. In 2014 and again in 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Benro to the National Council on Disability. Benro was also appointed by three different Illinois Governors to public bodies including twice as a Commissioner of the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission. He served as President and Board Chairman of the National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc. Benro received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gallaudet University and a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) from the School of Public Service at DePaul University.
Andrés Gallegos is a shareholder with the law firm of Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd. and is the founder and director of its national disability rights practice. Andrés is a frequent speaker and has authored numerous articles on matters relating to the application of disability-related laws to healthcare providers and the disability rights movement. Andrés is a member of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that provides advice to the President, Congress, and federal agencies on matters affecting persons with disabilities nationwide. He serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of Access Living and was a two-time governor appointee to the Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois. Andrés earned a B.S. from the University of Southern Mississippi and a J.D. from the St. Louis University School of Law.
For the past thirty years, Jack Catlin has been involved in creating environments for all people including people with disabilities. Currently, Jack is one of two technical trainers for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST Program. Jack co-chaired the committee that developed Chicago’s first comprehensive accessibility code as part of the revisions to the Chicago Building Code. In 1994, Jack was appointed to the U.S. Access Board by President Clinton. He served on the Executive Committee of the Chicago Community Trust, Co-Chairs it’s Disabilities Fund Advisory Board, and is a current board member of the Metropolitan Planning Council. Jack graduated from the University of Illinois School of Architecture.
Horacio Esparza is the Executive Director of Progress Center for Independent Living, an Independent Living Center serving suburban Cook County. Horacio is also the host of a radio show called Vida Independiente. Horacio is a member of Not Dead Yet and the Illinois Statewide Hispanic Council. Horacio served on the ADA 25 Chicago steering committee. Horacio earned a B.A. from University of Wisconsin Whitewater and a degree in philosophy from Autonomous University of Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico.
Gary Arnold is the Program Director for Progress Center for Independent Living. Previously, Gary worked as the Public Affairs Manager for Access Living. Gary is the co-chair of the Board of Directors for Crossroads Fund. He is the immediate past president of Little People of America, and has served on the Board of Directors for Public Narrative (previously known as the Community Media Workshop). Gary is a 2013 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow. Gary earned a B.A. from Beloit College and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2018.
Rachel Arfa was appointed Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in July 2020. Rachel comes to MOPD with years of experience as a disability and civil rights attorney. As MOPD Commissioner, Rachel leads the City of Chicago’s efforts to make Chicago a more accessible city. MOPD provides services including in the areas of independent living services (information and referral, home-delivered meals, and homemaker services), employment and youth transition services, home modifications, assistive technology, accessible housing and architectural accessibility. MOPD also creates policies on disability accessibility, accessible transportation, and emergency preparedness.
Her extensive professional, and civic leadership experience has prepared her for this role. Rachel previously was employed as a Staff Attorney at Equip for Equality, Illinois’ governor-designated protection and legal advocacy agency which advocates for the civil and human rights of people with disabilities. Her work focused on representing people with disabilities in employment discrimination cases and civil rights violations. In this role, she managed the PABSS Project and served as the Chair of the Illinois ADA Project Steering Committee.
Rachel is the President of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association and in December, 2019, made the motion using spoken language and ASL for 10 deaf and hard of hearing attorneys to be admitted to the United States Supreme Court Bar. Rachel served as the Accessibility Lead for the Women’s March Chicago, developing expansive accessibility for large scale outdoor gatherings. Rachel served on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium and the Board of Directors for 3Arts, which supports artists of color, women artists, and artists with disabilities. She is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow (2016), Member of ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, and a past Fellow of the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership (2017) and the New Leaders Council (2013). She is a graduate of the University of Michigan (B.A., American Culture) and the University of Wisconsin School of Law (J.D.).
As Deputy Commissioner, Joe Albritton oversees Employment Services, Training Services, and Deaf and Hard of Hearing Programs. Joe is a member of the Mayoral Task Force on Employment and Economic Opportunities for People with Disabilities, and the Financial Advisory Council for the Empowerment of People with Disabilities. Prior to MOPD, Joe served as a Therapeutic Recreation Instructor for the Chicago Park District and a Job Developer at the Chicago Lighthouse. Joe is a graduate of Florida State University.
Karen Tamley was named the new president and CEO of Access Living in January 2020.
Before that, she served as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in Chicago for 14 years, where she tackled disability policy and accessibility initiatives under three Chicago mayors. Karen led disability-related work in the areas of transportation, city infrastructure, technology, emergency planning, education, and employment. She also oversaw the delivery of direct services including in-home supports, home accessibility modifications, and employment services to thousands of youth and adults with disabilities.
Karen was appointed by President Obama in 2016 to serve on the United States Access Board, which develops national accessibility guidelines and standards. In March of 2019, she was elected Chair of the Access Board.
In becoming CEO of Access Living, Karen is returning to her roots. She worked at Access Living from 1996 to 2005, under founding CEO Marca Bristo, first for three years as the Housing Policy Coordinator and then for six years as the Director of Programs.
Prior to that, she was the Housing Director at Atlantis Community, Inc. a Center for service and advocacy for people with disabilities in Denver, Colorado.
Tamley has a depth of experience serving on a wide variety of community and nonprofit boards that focus on cultural experiences and diversity and inclusion.
In 2015, Karen received the Motorola Solutions Excellence in Public Service Award from the Civic Federation, which recognizes a non-elected government official for having an extraordinary impact on the quality of state and local government services in Illinois, and she received the Distinguished Fellow award from Leadership Greater Chicago.
Karen is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Kevin Irvine, and their adopted teenage daughter, Dominika. All three have disabilities themselves and are actively involved in grassroots disability advocacy locally and nationally.
As Director of Civic Engagement at SPR, Pat Maher manages non-profit relationships within the tech sector. Pat supports the success of historically overlooked and discounted segments of the workforce – including professionals and aspiring candidates with disabilities, girls and young women, and younger candidates who lack social capital in the continually evolving technology industry. SPR’s strategic focus is supporting students through early-in-career (EIC) professionals to have the greatest impact.
Daisy Feidt has worked at Access Living for more than 20 years. She has held a wide variety of management positions and led the organization through multiple strategic planning processes. She has extensive management experience in fundraising, evaluation, and program implementation.
Daisy is an alumna of Leadership Greater Chicago, a prestigious and competitive program that provides community awareness and networking opportunities for leaders in Chicago. Daisy is on the board of BPI, a public interest law, and policy center and is the vice president of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living, the state association of centers for independent living.
We recently lost distinguished member and disability rights champion, Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access Living. You can read more about her career here and the civil rights she championed for our community.
After her passing, many news outlets chronicled her life championing the rights of people with disabilities. A selection is below. Rest In Power.
Marca Bristo was the Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Access Living. In addition to heading Access Living, one of the nation’s leading disability rights organizations and centers for independent living serving Chicago, Marca Bristo served as the Presidentially-appointed chairperson of the National Council on Disability from 1994-2002. As the former president of the National Council on Independent Living, she worked with the broader civil rights community on the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. She is the most recent emeritus President of the United States International Council on Disabilities, a member of Human Rights Watch Disability Advisory Committee, and the co-chair for the ADA 25 Chicago Steering Committee.
Bristo received the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States for her role in the creation and passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She was named a Henry B. Betts Laureate for significantly improving the quality of life for people with disabilities, and earned the 1993 United Way of Chicago Executive of the Year Award. She was also was named by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of Chicago’s 100 Most Influential Women, the Chicago Sun-Times list of 100 Most Powerful Women, and named 2007 Chicagoan of the Year, by Chicago Magazine and has received numerous other awards and honors.
Bristo was a Trustee of Rush University, a Board member of Forefront, a Life Member of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, a member of The Chicago Network, a Leadership Greater Chicago Alumni, and was appointed as a co-chair of Governor-elect Pritzker’s Transition Committee on Human Rights. She earned a B.A. from Beloit College and a B.S. in Nursing from Rush University.
Amber has served as Access Living’s Director of Advocacy since 2010. She is responsible for executing Access Living’s advocacy vision through policy, community organizing, and issue education, with support from across Access Living’s program departments. She guides Access Living’s strategic partnerships and significant networking efforts at the local, state, and national levels across a range of disability topics, including healthcare/home- and community-based services, housing, education, transportation, racial justice, immigration, and incarceration of people with disabilities.
Amber facilitates the federal-state working group Disability Power for Community Integration. She also supports international disability learning exchange, particularly through the U.S. Professional Fellows Programs. Amber is a skilled presenter and trainer, a member of ADA25 and Leadership Greater Chicago, and a recipient of numerous local and national awards for her disability advocacy.
Amber is a proud member of the Deaf community who grew up in mainstreamed schools, learned ASL as a young adult, and now relies on lip-reading, ASL interpreters, and video relay technologies for communication access.
Kevin Irvine works at Rush University Medical Center as its Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant, Individuals with Disabilities, and is Co-Chair of the Rush ADA Task Force. Since 2012, Kevin has served on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Transit Authority. Kevin is also a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow (2006) and a graduate of Purchase College, State University of New York.
As an instructor and doctoral candidate in Disability Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago, Norma Jane Mejias’s work explores experiences of young women with disabilities in support groups. Janie has been involved in disability rights advocacy and many groups at Access Living. Janie is also passionate about volunteering for Canine Companions for Independence with service dog Haven. Janie earned a B.A. from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian College and a M.S. from University of Illinois at Chicago.
Mark Williams develops and manages foundation and government grants at United Way of Metro Chicago. Mark has served the nonprofit and disability communities for many years and was a member of both the Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois and the Illinois ADA Project Steering Committee. Mark earned his B.A. in American Studies from Lake Forest College and M.S. in Human Services Administration from Spertus College. He currently serves on the Boards of Directors at Blind Service Association, and Mental Health Association of Greater Chicago.
Brian Heyburn is a Ph.D. candidate in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, having first received an M.S. in Disability and Human Development. At UIC, Brian serves as a Graduate Assistant at the Disability Cultural Center assisting with the development disability culture events across campus. Brian earned a B.A. in Religion from Centre College.
Michele Lee is a diversity leader at Aon and founder of the Empowering Abilities Employee Resource Group. Michele is passionate about disability employment, universal access, and accessible transportation. Michele represents Aon on the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Business Advisory Board. Michele earned a B.A. from the University of Arizona.
Kevin is an Office Supervisor at Faithful+Gould. He is also a presentation coach, actor, writer, motivational speaker, storyteller, and teacher. As a storyteller, Kevin is a winner of The Moth StorySLAM. As a teacher: He created a personal narrative storytelling lab for detainees in Cook County Jail; at Piven Theatre, he helped establish a theatre games program for adults with development disabilities. Kevin presents anti-bullying motivational speeches to middle schoolers and high schoolers. He wrote a stageplay, Nobody Talks Nice about the journey of living with a disability. He is a graduate of The ACADEMY at Black Box Acting and is represented by Paonessa Talent. Follow him over social media: @kdaspeaker
At Discover, Chaitanya Manchanda is the founder and co-chair of the Discover’s employer resource group, “Accentuating Discover Abilities.” Chaitanya is actively involved in spreading awareness, advocating for disability rights and representing the Deaf/Hard Of Hearing (HOH) Community. Chaitanya was an Executive Committee Member of the Hearing Loss Association of America in Chicago Lincoln Park for two years. Chaitanya earned a B.S. from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.
Bridget Hayman specializes in digital, media, and content marketing with 19 years of experience activating cross-channel communication strategies in healthcare, finance, and the nonprofit sector.
Before joining Access Living, Bridget was the director of digital content marketing at Easterseals’ national headquarters and served as the associate director of public relations and social media at Valence Health. Prior to that, she built and executed social media strategies from the ground up for both the American Dental Association and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. She began her professional career at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Bridget is a 2018 University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy Fellow, a 2017 ADA 25 Advancing Leadership Fellow, and a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She holds a master’s degree in visual culture from Lancaster University, England, and a triple bachelor’s in English, journalism, and public relations from the University of Northern Colorado.
Risa Jaz Rifkind is a justice advocate who seeks to make change by shifting access to power and influence.
As Director of Civic Engagement and Marketing, Risa propels the organization to realize its vision to have people with disabilities lead with power and influence. By identifying and developing strategic partnerships, Risa positions Members to take on leadership roles that advance their careers, civic engagement, and equity for people with disabilities. By integrating this vision into all internal and external communications, she leads Advancing Leadership’s brand awareness, public and private Member programming, and community engagement and outreach. She is also an Advancing Leadership Member.
Previously, Risa was Program Manager at The Chicago Community Trust where she developed their disability inclusion priorities and practices and managed several disability inclusion initiatives including the Disabilities Fund, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership, and ADA 25 Chicago. With the Disabilities Fund, Risa supported a rebrand and strategic plan redesign that resulted in a 500% increase in annual grantmaking for which she acted as the program officer. During 2015, ADA 25 Chicago leveraged the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act to move the spirit of the law forward. This included engaging and supporting over 200 partner organizations’ commitments and event.
Risa is passionate about the arts and serves as the Co-Chair of the Steering Committee for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium as well as on its Board of Directors as Treasurer. Risa also serves on the Accessible Airports Advisory Committee for the City of Chicago and the Access Advisory Committee for the Chicago History Museum. Risa received a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University.
Joe has previously held positions with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, the Illinois Attorney General, and the US Department of Justice. Joe serves on the Board of Directors of Openlands and the Center for Disability and Elder Law. Joe earned a B.A. from Georgetown University and a J.D. from New York University School of Law. Joe is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow (2007).
Mary is an attorney on Access Living’s civil rights team. She represents people with disabilities in discrimination cases, conducts education and outreach about disability rights laws, and is involved in public policy advocacy. Formerly, as an attorney at Prairie State Legal Services, Mary represented homeowners in foreclosure. Prior to law school, Mary taught middle and high school special education in New York City. She completed her undergrad degree at Loyola University in Chicago and received a master’s degree in special education from Pace University. She graduated from John Marshall Law School in the top 3 percent of her class.
Randall is a researcher focusing on disability and policy, especially evaluations of reforms to Medicaid services. Currently, he is working on an evaluation of healthcare services for children who are transitioning into a managed care model. He is a recent transplant to the SF-Bay Area in California and is currently not serving on any boards, although he is open to volunteer leadership and employment opportunities. Randall is active in leadership for the American Public Health Association, serving on both the Disability Section Executive Committee and on the Committee for Health Equity.
Kevin Knabe has served on the Executive Advisory Board for NARDA PWI and was twice selected for a US delegation in China, South Korea, and Russia as part of the Citizen Ambassador Program. Kevin serves on the Chicago Hearing Society’s Board of Advisors and is a Mentor Deaf Tech at Harper College. Kevin is a graduate of Marquette University.
Kaney O’Neill is a Navy veteran and founder of O’Neill Contractors. In 2015, Kaney was the recipient of the National Veteran-Owned Business Association Woman Vetrepreneur of the Year Award and the Annual Woman Veteran of the Year Award from the Women’s Business Development Center in 2014. Kaney serves on the Board of Directors for the Federation of Women Contractors and the National Board of Directors of Bunker Labs. Kaney received a B.S.Ed. and a M.A. from Northwestern University.
Professor, author, and legal consultant, Kathleen Dillon Narko is a prominent member of the Chicago Bar Association, currently serving on the Editorial Board of the CBA Record. Kathleen is a past member of the CBA Board of Managers and a current member of the Membership Committee. Kathleen serves on the Board of Advisors of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago as a member of the Legal Advisory Committee. Additionally, Kathleen is a member of the Leadership Council of the National Immigrant Justice Center. Kathleen received a J.D. from Cornell Law School and a B.A. from Yale University.
Bill Bogdan is responsible for the coordination, development, and implementation of programs and services for persons with disabilities for the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. In 2010, Bill was appointed by the Governor of Illinois to Chair the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. In addition, Bill serves on the Illinois Elevator Safety Advisory Board, the Illinois State Library Talking Books and Braille Service Advisory Council, the Board of Directors for the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Illinois and the Diveheart Foundation. Bill graduated with honors from DePaul University, and is active in many sport and recreational programs offered through Adaptive Adventures and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab Adaptive Sports & Fitness Program.
Stephanie Anderson brings commitment and drive to ensure that all Vaughn High School students have opportunities to engage within the community. Prior roles include Diverse Learner Supporter at Chicago Public Schools and an Intervention Specialist/School Psychologist for Northern Suburban Special Education District. Stephanie founded Friends of Vaughan. Stephanie earned a B.A. from Western Michigan University and an M.A. from Concordia University.